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where to eat in oahu?

lestererik Jul 20, 2009 04:34 PM

My girlfriend & I won a trip to Hawaii in November, and we would love your help finding some great restaurants. We're big time foodies and like the good things in life. We cannot put a price tag on great restaurants, so that is not a problem. My question to you is: If you had to eat in Oahu without a budget, where would you eat? Thanksa ton Chowhounds!!!!!

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    alexisesp RE: lestererik Jul 20, 2009 05:15 PM

    360 on the Rise

    10 Replies
    1. re: alexisesp
      KaimukiMan RE: alexisesp Jul 20, 2009 07:17 PM

      alexisesp means 3660 (in Kaimuki), which would be on the list.

      the following is an older thread, but not too out of date

      another oldie but goodie

      a section of my personal list of restaurants

      AMERICAN/FUSION - Everyday
      Big City Diner**
      Good to Grill, Kapahulu
      Kakkaako Kitchen, Ward*
      Side Street Inn*

      Blue Water Cafe, Hawaii Kai
      Buzz’s Steakhouse, Aiea, Kailua
      Chuck's Steakhouse, Waikiki
      Duke’s, Waikiki*
      Henry Loui’s, Mapunapuna
      Jameson’s, Haleiwa
      Kona Brewing Co., Hawaii Kai
      La Mariana Sailing Club, Sand Island*
      Tiki’s, Marriot, Waikiki
      Town, Kaimuki*
      12th Avenue Grill, Kaimuki

      AMERICAN/FUSION - Finer Dining
      Alan Wong’s
      DK Steak House, Waikiki
      Duc’s Bistro, Chinatown*
      Hau Tree Lanai, Waikiki*
      Hoku’s, Kahala
      Hy’s Steakhouse, Waikiki*
      Mariposa, Ala Moana
      Ninniku-Ya Garlic Restaurant, Kaimuki
      Orchid’s, Halekulani
      La Mer, Halekulani
      Longhi’s, Ala Moana
      Plumeria Cafe, Kahala
      3660 On The Rise

      In addition you might want to consider some not so "name" places

      rainbow drive in for choke the arteries, broke da mouth plate lunch
      waiola store (either waiola st. or kapahulu) for super ono shave ice
      Leonards bakery for malasadas (giant donut holes) try the unfilled and filled varieties
      Happy Days in Kaimuki for dim sum (or legends downtown, or mei sum or tai pan
      )Ichi Riki near ala moana for japanese noodles ("real" ramen)
      Nico's Pier 38 (breakfast and lunch only) for fish
      Ono's Hawaiian (kapahulu)
      Char Hung Sut chinatown for local style manapua (hawaiian adaptation of dim sum)
      Chai's at aloha tower for Thai inspired fusion (or spices in moiliili)
      Puka Dog in Waikiki (or hanks gourmet hot dogs Kakaako) for hot dogs

      that should keep you busy for a while

      1. re: KaimukiMan
        KaimukiMan RE: KaimukiMan Jul 21, 2009 03:30 PM

        I should have included Sam Choys (seafood/local style food)

        1. re: KaimukiMan
          curiousgeo RE: KaimukiMan Jul 21, 2009 07:04 PM

          KM, have you tried Kaimuki Grill yet? I've heard it's quite good for local style food. Kind of like Sidestreet Inn, but not quite as salty for bar food with generous portions.

          For the OP, this would fall under a "not so name place". In Kaimuki, 12th Avenue just off Harding.

          1. re: curiousgeo
            KaimukiMan RE: curiousgeo Jul 21, 2009 08:55 PM

            Are you talking about the 12th Avenue Grill?

            I went there a couple of times but havent been in 3 or 4 years. it was pretty good but at the time i felt overpriced and the line was too long. When it opened it was very much a name place. Way before town, and before 3660

            1. re: KaimukiMan
              curiousgeo RE: KaimukiMan Jul 21, 2009 09:28 PM

              No not 12th Avenue Grill, although I like the food there as well. This one is next to that ramen place across the parking lot from Victoria Inn.


              1. re: curiousgeo
                KaimukiMan RE: curiousgeo Jul 23, 2009 02:16 PM

                never paid any attention to it. ive got a friend who works a block away, maybe its time for a lunch together.

                1. re: KaimukiMan
                  KaimukiMan RE: KaimukiMan Aug 15, 2009 01:02 PM

                  Tried Kaimuki Grill last week. Everything except the burgers are served "family style", which was fine with us. There are about 2 dozen items on the menu, mostly typical local fare. Two of us split the fried rice and a teri steak. Both were reasonable servings (i took home some fried rice), and the food tasted pretty good. On the other hand, i wouldn't call it great. While it probably won't become one of my favorites, it is certainly not someplace to avoid.

                  1. re: KaimukiMan
                    curiousgeo RE: KaimukiMan Aug 27, 2009 12:49 PM

                    KM, I just noticed your post on Kaimuki Grill. I also tried it recently and agree with your assessment. It was not bad, tasty food and I thought it was priced right for the quality and quantity served. I like the food at Sidestreet Inn more, but the cost is also considerably higher there. Kaimuki Grill is a good neighborhood spot that nicely fills a niche in the area.

                    We had the fried rice, teriyaki steak, pork chops and one other dish that escapes me at the moment. I do want to return and try the kalua pig nachos, those looked interesting, although everything seems to taste better with a cold beer.

                    1. re: curiousgeo
                      KaimukiMan RE: curiousgeo Aug 27, 2009 12:52 PM

                      love to go with you, i could use a cold beer.

        2. re: KaimukiMan
          Bill Hunt RE: KaimukiMan Jul 23, 2009 08:52 PM

          Nice list! I will probably link to this thread, just because of the great recs. that you put together.



      2. Bill Hunt RE: lestererik Jul 23, 2009 08:51 PM

        These would be my choices:

        1.) Alan Wong's, King St. (Chef's counter is my fav.)

        2.) Chef Mavro's, King St. (the full tasting menu, plus the sommelier's premium wine list is my fav.)

        3.) La Mer @ Halekulani (again, the chef's tasting has always been great.)

        4.) 3660 on the Rise (we have never had any dish that was not great.)

        Each is different, and each offers a unique take on the cuisine of Hawai`i. Each should be appreciated for what they are.

        The prices range from La Mer, to Chef Mavro & Alan Wong very close, and 3660 on the Rise being at the lower end of that list - in price, not in food.

        All are close to Waikiki, with 3660 being out just a bit. Short drive, or cab ride.



        Alan Wong's Restaurant
        1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

        Chef Mavro restaurant
        1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826

        La Mer
        2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

        3660 On the Rise
        3660 Waialae Ave Unit Frnt, Honolulu, HI 96816

        27 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt
          ponocat RE: Bill Hunt Aug 15, 2009 10:18 AM

          I ate at Chef Mavro's last week and found it to be as disappointing as when I ate there 5 years ago. The ambiance of the place is great, but the food is not worth the cost. The worst course of the 6-course meal was the soggy lobster tail in weak broth. The best was the goat cheese mousse. Too bad that Alan Wong doesn't have a nice restaurant (physically) like Mavro. It would be great to dine in a nice place where you can have a conversation, and also have wonderful food.

          1. re: ponocat
            manomin RE: ponocat Aug 15, 2009 12:17 PM

            Amazing, somebody actually didn't like it twice. I've never been interested in going there
            to begin with. I've eaten his food at events and it's o.k. and been to a private dinner he cooked and it was o.k. I like Alan Wong's food immensely although neither of his restaurants
            are "great rooms" the food speaks for itself at that point. 3660 has some great food as does
            town although town is hard to have a conversation in when it gets rocking and rolling. I love eating there though. Wish I were going today!

            1. re: manomin
              Bill Hunt RE: manomin Aug 26, 2009 08:32 PM

              We had one great meal, and then one "ho-hum," though much of that second one had to do with the wine service that night.

              Still, based on the first, I'd be back in a heartbeat, and hope that the second was an aberration.


              1. re: Bill Hunt
                estufarian RE: Bill Hunt Jan 17, 2010 10:49 AM

                This may seem a strange time (and thread) to respond – but it seems to make more sense here than on more recent threads.

                Due to a cancellation of a planned trip (not enough people travelling to Antarctica) and a changed employer policy (preventing vacation to be carried over from 2009 to 2010) we were faced with a sudden ‘use it or lose it’ vacation option and found a loophole allowing us to leave for Hawaii (for the first time ever) on Dec 31st.
                With virtually no time to plan extensively I scanned the site – and lo and behold found the July 23rd recommendations from Bill Hunt. Bill has rarely (if ever) steered me in a totally wrong direction, so no disrespect for local posters, but I used that post as my guide for ‘finer’ dining – just didn’t have time to delve more deeply.

                So, an update from my perspective:

                First – by far the best – was La Mer! I’m more a ‘modernist’ than traditionalist – but the classic French-style cuisine here was among the best I’ve found in North America. The service was impeccable (for example, we attempted to reserve for 7:00pm – back came an email noting that “La Mer has window tables that are seated at 6:00 or 6:15PM. Did you want to adjust your arrival time for a table along the window?” – which of course we did as we were on a 5 hour time shift anyway!).

                A quick review of the excellent wine list (of course, prices were ‘not cheap’ but a great selection) I noticed many wines that I had already seen in a specialist wine store earlier in the day, so asked to speak to the Sommelier to see if the wine I’d selected (for reference a Coche-Dury Burgundy) was possibly available anywhere on the island at retail. Unfortunately it appeared not – but this prompted an offer from the Sommelier to serve any of four vintages of this wine to us at the same price as the only vintage mentioned on the wine list. Great knowledge of the cellar by the Sommelier – he even mentioned that the substitute I selected would not be as cold as the ‘listed’ vintage, because it was in the main cellar, not the restaurant holding cellar (which was cooler).
                The wine (of course) was spectacular, as was the food. And all around, only some New York places compete for the ‘best French meal’ in North America over several years.

                Let’s jump to the worst from Bill’s list. And it’s a long jump! That was Alan Wong’s! We had saved this for last as we had hoped it would be the highlight, and wanted to get a feeling for ‘modern Hawaiian’ before we ate here. This meant we had already tried most of the local fish, so faced a choice of repeating stuff we’d had superb examples of at La Mer, or going a little further adrift. Either way it didn’t matter too much. Service was abysmal! The tasting menu was only available for the whole table (La Mer allowed multiple substitutions) but we could choose 2 appetizers each, with different mains to try 6 different courses (plus amuses) – so that was the route we went. Again, Coche Dury was on the wine list, so – what the hell! Let’s splurge a bit. Out came our first two appetisers – but no wine. Now an awkward moment (never a good idea) – do we send back the food until we get the wine, or hope the wine follows quickly? Assessing the reputation we assumed the wine would follow quickly so accepted the food; Ooops, wrong choice – the wine did arrive before we finished – except it was the wrong vintage (in my opinion a lesser one – definitely a younger one). So it was rejected (the server never pointed out the discrepancy – also a faux pas), and the server went back to search for the vintage advertised. Fruitlessly it transpired. But by now we’d finished our first courses. A possible ‘save’ would be to offer the newer vintage at a discount. But that offer never came! Eventually a substitute wine was selected by me, and things continued in a respectable manner – but the food in the next course was disappointing – the Kahlua pork was surprisingly tough.
                I tried to salvage the dinner by ordering a ‘Special Reserve Bual Madeira’ from the dessert menu – but asked to see the bottle first – it turned out to be the Boston Bual (from the Rare Wine Company) – which may be indeed ‘special’ – but the missing descriptor of ‘Boston’ was , at best, a sin of omission – it’s never been omitted in any other restaurant where it’s been served, and I’ve had it many times – a good restaurant Madeira (but not a patch on the ‘Madeira trolley’ offered at la Mer).

                That leaves a couple in between. Chef Mavro’s and Roy’s at Hawaii Kai. I put Roy’s ahead based on price (about half of Mavro’s) although neither was flawless!

                Roy’s had excellent appetisers, but the mains were a bit disappointing – overcooked. A good (relatively cheap) wine list but a bit more casual all around. But full marks for serving Canada Goose! Which went well with the Talbott Diamond T Chardonnay (about the same price on the wine list that we pay retail in Canada).

                Chef Mavro’s was difficult to assess. The food was ‘mostly excellent’ (second only to La Mer) with a bizarre incident on one course. We chose the tasting menu which had several alternatives both for dishes and wine. The Sablefish course was selected by AmuseGirl - it’s an ingredient we’ve had many times. As background, our modus operandi is to split virtually every dish we get, and we NEVER discuss the dish until both have tasted it. Also the dish is ordered by the other person (seems strange at first, but that means the person who wants it gets served the alternate dish first, then we swap and finish with the dish we REALLY wanted). This means that I was served the sablefish, and detected an unusual fishy taste not at all typical – but didn’t say a word! My initial diagnosis was that it wasn’t ‘off’ (no ammonia character) but certainly wasn’t ‘right’. Amusegirl’s first comment was that her sablefish had ‘been kissed by a mackerel’! So, independently we both found something ‘not quite right’ with this dish. When asked how the dishes were, I responded that ‘the sablefish wasn’t as fresh as it might have been – but wasn’t off (probably not the most tactful way of commenting – in hindsight I should just have commented that it tasted different from what I expected). This led to a visit (and tirade) from Chef Mavro that I might not have liked this, but that he ALWAYS served the freshest fish on the island. At which point he walked away (and never returned). Recognising that my ‘diagnosis’ could have been wrong, I did offer an apology via the waiter for jumping to a conclusion, but maintained that the dish still ‘didn’t taste as we expected’ and asked if the fish had indeed been Black Cod (it occurred to me that perhaps ‘Sablefish’ in Hawaii may not be the same species that we habitually get in Canada and Eastern seaboard of U.S.). I was assured that it was, indeed, Black Cod – so the mystery remains as to what caused ‘the difference’. It’s only fair to comment that all other dishes ranged from good through excellent – this was the only ‘suspect’ course.

                But the low rating was as much (if not more) to do with wine. Here MUCH criticism is warranted.
                First – no wine list! Only available are wines by the glass – ‘specially selected for the dishes on offer’. For several courses, two separate wines are recommended – a standard and a ‘premium’ offering (but it appears that all of the premium offerings cost the same $26 per glass – at least on the night we were there). I feel that is an excellent idea (in principle) having, in the past, suffered through some disastrous wine pairings (often chosen to hit a price point, rather than being appropriate for the food served, and occasionally verging on the point of fraud). And at $26 per glass that’s around $130- $170 per bottle, so I expect something good.
                Here personal taste becomes a key issue – but if you’re only offering 1 (or 2) selections per course, you’d better know more than the customer! And sadly that wasn’t necessarily true.
                A Cabernet Franc (which we both failed to finish because it didn’t go with the course) was questioned – and was completely unknown to the server. And even though we both left some (most?) it remained on the check. Again, for fairness, other food and wine matches were better. Fortunately (?!) two of the three ‘premium’ offerings were 2003 Bordeaux – and I have avoided them from Day 1 – we were in France and Spain in August of 2003 (the hottest year in memory) and many (most?) vines had shut down and the leaves had already turned brown. I’ve always found the 2003 mostly unbalanced and too alcoholic (although several Sommeliers in Toronto delight in finding ‘good’ examples from 2003 to test me with). The third premium glass was a competent 2006 Puligny Montrachet – but at a per glass charge that exceeded the equivalent amount for the Coche-Dury Bourgogne, offered at other places.

                1. re: estufarian
                  Bill Hunt RE: estufarian Jan 17, 2010 06:01 PM

                  I am especially horrified by the visit to Alan Wong's. We've dined there, and have delighted on each visit, since they opened. The service has never been anything but excellent and very well-timed. This has not been par for the course, over the decades. I wonder what might be wrong. I has been over a year, since we were last there, and this is not the first review, in that time, to indicate a problem. This troubles me greatly, as they have been my "go-to" restaurant for so very long.

                  I am with you, that the omission of the "Boston" should never have occurred and know that AW's sommelier (at least up through our last visit) knows how to construct a wine list, so that the patron knows exactly what they are ordering. This would not be acceptable with me either.

                  I must add that on the last 4-5 visits, we have done the "chef's counter," and the full tasting menu, along with the sommelier's pairings for each course - plus a additional glass of "welcome wine," as we settle in. All has been perfect, or very nearly so.

                  I did not recall that a table must order the tasting menu, but then we've been at the counter and have done so. In this, I might have missed something. Still, the wine service is not what I would have expected, nor accepted. You gotta' get the timing correct. I can see the wines arriving slightly before, but never AFTER the course. This is just not worthy of the great service that we have experienced in the past. Now - I worry.

                  Going on to La Mer, I am glad that Randy Ching stepped up and made the offer. On our last visit, he was the weak link, and we know that he is more than capable. We just hit them on a bad night for several reasons. At least I was partially vindicated, though nothing excuses what you found at my #1 favorite, Alan Wong's.

                  Chef Mavro's has always had a very full wine list in the past, though we have availed ourselves of their sommelier's pairings, provided by Todd Asline, formerly of Tru in Chicago. We usually have done "one of each," when there were "reserve" offerings, to judge each. We also do not do quite as you, but do share our plates, and keep comments until the end.

                  Last trip, we did get a corked "selection," that was about half-full - this is a really, really bad sign, and I pulled our wine server aside to point out the problem. He seemed to almost be bothered. We the roles reversed, I would have been horrified (that I missed this and served this), would have run about, gathering every glass of the off wine, and then rewarded the person, who pointed this out, with something very special. No go. All we got was a huff and a replacement from an un-corked bottle. One strike.

                  As for the sablefish, I am NOT a fan of fishy fish, and all of the sablefish that I have ever had, Hawai`i, Mainland and elsewhere, has been light, flaky, flavorful, but NOT fishy. Chef was not cool in this. When a patron responds that something is off, the chef should be right on top of it. In a previous thread, we encountered a bad crab cake dish on the North Shore. This was not a "possibly off" dish, but a "bring you to your knees, bad dish." I whispered to the server, and he checked everything out. Not only was the offending portion replaced, but apologies were offered, the dishes were completely comped, as was the dessert wines, IIRC. There was no hint of any attitude, just apologies and the FOH took more than adequate care of us, actually more than expected. Most of our sablefish dishes have come from one of Roy Yamaguchi's kitchens, and all have been great, and even in AZ - fresh!

                  With the one exception, listed above, we have found the pairings to be spot-on. Still, doing a "sommelier's premium wine," that was corked points to potential problems.

                  I would have hoped to score a perfect 100 on the recs., and feel so very bad that I did not - or that my sources let me down. I take this stuff personally, and feel pride, or great pain, depending on the results.

                  I am trying to put together an O`ahu trip in the late Spring, and will put these folk to the test. I am just so sorry that things did not go, as I would have anticipated.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                    estufarian RE: Bill Hunt Jan 18, 2010 06:38 AM

                    Hi Bill,
                    Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
                    I do not hold you responsible in any way - I decided to reply 'in detail' as several other contributors had noted a few issues, so I hoped I would add value by including details. With all the help I've received from Chowhound (in general) in the past and you, in particular, I felt 'responsible' to provide specific feedback (a little more than "I didn't like my meal there"). Of course, if the proprietors also see it - that won't hurt either. While I now know my tastes are similar to (but not the same as) yours, that's valuable to me as, obviously, I can 'interpret' your experiences. I believe we're both more concerned with wine matches than many contributors, which can colour our experiences.

                    For my part, I'm now almost obsessed with textures on my plate - hence my greater focus on more 'modern' techniques - but try and tone it down in reviews. That way I avoid some of the 'better than' issues (BBQ being the most obvious, where I prefer some 'al dente' to the 'fall-off-the bone' faction that dominates (at least) the Toronto Board).
                    And Bill, please keep on posting those reviews! One day there'll be a Nacional to share! (But probably not in Oahu).

                    1. re: estufarian
                      foodkarma RE: estufarian Jan 18, 2010 10:07 AM

                      Thanks for your review estufarian. We really enjoy Honolulu and I try to go there every couple years.

                      Sad to hear your review of AW. I was there in late Nov and it was one of the highlights of our trip. I remember very clearly that we did NOT have to order the tasting as a table. In fact the table next to us had one tasting and the other person ordered a la carte.

                      Which location did you go to? Not that it should matter as all locations should have consistent service levels, however it would be good to know if there are different policies.

                      1. re: foodkarma
                        estufarian RE: foodkarma Jan 18, 2010 12:17 PM

                        We were at the S King St location.
                        And we DEFINITELY asked about only 1 person having the tasting menu.

                        Maybe it was just an 'off' night - but BOTH food and service (and wine list)were problematic - doesn't that hint at a "management" problem?

                        1. re: estufarian
                          MRMoggie RE: estufarian Jan 18, 2010 04:10 PM

                          We've had issues at Alan Wong's with service and wine, including waiting nearly 20 minutes for our table and waiting through part of the meal for both a wine-by-the glass aperitif and the wine ordered to accompany dinner.

                          1. re: estufarian
                            Steve R RE: estufarian Jan 19, 2010 04:31 AM

                            I only have one thing to add to this discussion... although I love AW (and have been there several times over the years), a couple of years ago, our table of 4 consisted of 2 who got the tasting menu and 2 who didnt. No problem at all. However, I've noticed several other tables told "all or nothing", including at our dinner there this past spring. If we were in NYC at a place we regularly frequent, I'd chalk it up to favoritism, but AW doesnt know us at all. I have no idea what this is about.

                            As for Chef Mavro, his reputation as a bit of a hothead is what's kept us away, even given his stellar food reviews. A vacation is not meant for arguments.

                      2. re: Bill Hunt
                        russkar RE: Bill Hunt Jan 21, 2010 08:08 PM

                        A/w's isn't the powerhouse it once was but for Oahu it's still in the top 1-3 depending on your tastes. I prefer La Mer (there in Oct) and even 3660 has it's moments, followed by Hiroshi.
                        We've been several times over the years and 3 times in the last 3 months. We normally order the Chef's Tasting Menu other than the Special dinner last Oct which was amazing. The Chef de Cuisine seems to be focused on a more extreme combination of flavors which works most of the time but not always. Soy Katsu Gelee' Toro & Foie Gras Tureen , the bomb!!
                        It's like French Laundry's OYSTERS & PEARLS, our fave, on the Mainland.
                        If you branch out to Indian try Cafe Maharani on King down the Street from A/W it's really good. Stuffed Garlic Cheese Naan is the best thing followed by other quaility great dishes.

                      3. re: estufarian
                        KaimukiMan RE: estufarian Jan 18, 2010 06:30 PM

                        Not at all surprised by Chef Mavro's selection. Never had a good experience there in spite of the truly excellent food. Mavro is a fantastic cook. Seems to me a great chef should be much much more, that has nothing to do with the food, but with making sure the rest of the dining experience matches his skill with ingredients.

                        1. re: estufarian
                          estufarian RE: estufarian Apr 6, 2010 07:07 AM

                          Just a quick update on the 'Sablefish' issue at Chef Mavro. We've had this at several other places since (including in France) and are now convinced that we were served a diferent fish (rather than a 'not-fresh' version). Both the flavor and texture were wrong. Which leaves two options - either we were served a different fish intentionally (perhaps difficulty in supply, perhaps a cost -driven decision) or unintentionally (implying the chef (or sous/commis) can't tell the difference). Neither option reflects well on the restaurant.
                          In Toronto (my home base) and also New York, there have been recent exposés that much fish sold is NOT the species advertised - but I note that, without the head being still attached, it is difficult to identify many fish. The most recent scandal, here in Toronto, prompted recollections of my report here, so I'm adding this postscript.

                          Chef Mavro restaurant
                          1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826

                          1. re: estufarian
                            Bill Hunt RE: estufarian Apr 6, 2010 08:11 PM

                            Thank you for that addition.

                            We have also found some "odd" fishes, where others were advertised. Upon questioning, the answer is about 50-50, "oh, we had to substitute," or, "you just do not know your fish."

                            For us, answer is the right one, but that should have been offered much earlier in the meal. Now, as neither of us is an iichthyologist, number two could be correct, but as we have spent our entire lives around seafood around the globe, not that likely. Yes, a sardine in Portugal might differ from a sardine in Monterey, CA, but not by THAT much. Now, local, or regional names can differ, and that is where I always inquire as to exactly what they mean, with regard to Lemon Fish, Ling, Cobia, etc.. I want to know what they think it is.

                            Also, over the decades, I have encountered fish species, that I always considered "trash," or "bait fish," like the Jack Cravelle. Now, many restaurants are serving those. I am open, as things have changed from my youth, and many of the game fish are not commercially available nowadays, so restauranteurs and chefs, are looking for other species to fill the needs.

                            To me, "sablefish," is Black Cod and is also often called Escolar, Butterfish and Hawaiian Butterfish though not always. There is much confusion as to exactly which species one is getting. It has a high oil content (can lead to GI issues), and should be cooked appropriately. It is very flavorful, and should be light and flaky, with a high fish-oil content. Finding out just which fish is being called by any of those names is difficult to impossible.

                            While I do not know what Chef Mavro was serving, he has a great reputation for being true to the culinary arts, and to Hawaiian cuisine. That should indicate that he would be true to his menu, or that the diner would be well-informed of any changes. With fresh seafood, that happens all the time, based on what the fishermen bring in that day, or yesterday. When changes are made, based on the "real catch of the day," I am all ears. I am saddened that the staff might not have been forthcoming with you.

                            BTW - I feel the same way, when I order a Vintage Port, and get an LBV, at the VP prices. "What is this?" "Oh, that is the Taylor '96, since we did not have the '94, that you ordered." "OK, then it's an LBV, right?" "Well it's a Vintage Port, but not the one you ordered." "Please show me the bottle." At that point, I discuss the differences between an LBV and a true Vintage Port, and insist that the bill be adjusted properly.

                            Again, thank you for reporting,


                            Chef Mavro restaurant
                            1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826

                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                              ewanm RE: Bill Hunt May 24, 2010 09:24 PM

                              I'm left a little confused :). I'm going to be taking my first trip to Honolulu this summer, happily including my 40th birthday, and we'd like the best meal possible for the evening; it seems that the odds are perhaps best at La Mer - is that accurate? If so, do I need to pack a jacket for that meal?

                              Thanks very much, all, for the detailed comments here.

                              La Mer
                              2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                              1. re: ewanm
                                flylice2x RE: ewanm May 25, 2010 12:36 AM

                                Jacket or long sleeve shirt required..

                                1. re: flylice2x
                                  Joebob RE: flylice2x May 25, 2010 12:58 PM

                                  We were told that a collard shirt, but not a jacket, was required in the summer. You will have a good meal if you are willing to spend A LOT of money, but Alan Wong's and Chef Mavro are better choices for food IMO. If seats with a view is a requirement, then La Mer is the best.

                                  Alan Wong's Restaurant
                                  1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

                                  Chef Mavro restaurant
                                  1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826

                                  La Mer
                                  2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                  1. re: Joebob
                                    Bill Hunt RE: Joebob Jun 3, 2010 09:00 PM

                                    I have never paid much attention to the attire of other diners, but would assume that "collared shirts," and no shorts are probably the norm. I don my blazer, but that is just me.

                                    On a guess, I'd say that most gentlemen are wearing slacks and aloha shirts.

                                    As for the pure food-aspect, I'd go with AW's, and then let Chef Mavro and La Mer be a "toss up." Each of the latter two have let us down a bit, but have also performed perfectly on other visits. Tough call, after AW's.


                                    Chef Mavro restaurant
                                    1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826

                                    La Mer
                                    2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                  2. re: flylice2x
                                    Bill Hunt RE: flylice2x Jun 3, 2010 08:56 PM

                                    I always fly in a blazer, so I always have a jacket for most dinners, and have never really worried about it. Now, Hawai`i and jackets are not often thought of as being coincidental, but for me, I'd not have it any other way.

                                    It's like Sunday Brunch at Orchids - I would ALWAYS wear a jacket, and never consider any other attire, regardless of what many might have chosen.


                                  3. re: ewanm
                                    Bill Hunt RE: ewanm Jun 3, 2010 08:54 PM

                                    La Mer is one of the most elegant, if not THE most elegant restaurant on O`ahu. It can be excellent, but once the wine service really detracted from the experience for us. Still, they were on our list, for our aborted May trip. We have had the pleasure to dine there, when they were on their best, and even when they slipped, things were still pretty good.

                                    For me, the most consistent great restaurant has been Alan Wong's on King Street. We have NEVER been disappointed in any aspect of our meal, and the Chef's Counter was on our list. I cannot imagine going to O`ahu, without visiting them.

                                    For a b'day celebration, I would be torn between the elegance and ambiance, and the great food and service - La Mer vs AW's. Matter of fact, I would do one on one night, and the other the next, and not worry, but that is just me.



                                    Alan Wong's Restaurant
                                    1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

                                    La Mer
                                    2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                      ewanm RE: Bill Hunt Jul 21, 2010 07:43 AM

                                      Reporting back. [The trip in general was fabulous, and we all enjoyed Hawaii more than we expected; I expect to return soon, despite the distance.]

                                      We chose Alan Wong's for the birthday celebration, and their email customer service was very good; we got seats at the chef's counter with no problem, they printed a special menu without being asked, and so on. This continued on the evening: staff were uniformly excellent and managed the rare feat of being simultaneously courteous, refined, but also also warm and interested; the chefs directly in front of us (Crystal, Sean, and chef de cuisine Derek) were extremely open to questions - as Sean explicitly noted early on - and able/willing to take time for prolonged discussion on occasion without feeling the need to make excuses when they needed to break off to actually cook; it really felt as close as I would think possible to being a welcome guest in their kitchen. We chose the larger tasting menu, and between us needed to make subs for 4 of the 7 courses (my shellfish allergy and J's tomato hatred); no problem, and honestly we ended up with even better food as a result rather than any downgrading; an additional foie course for me, for example.

                                      The food was perhaps a notch down from the service/ambience, but only one notch and in many cases not even that; we were very impressed. [I'll do a follow-up with details when less jet-lagged!] (Standing out in my mind: a chilled two-soup swirl of tomato and peppers was exquisitely fresh and clean; foie, pork and grilled cheese sandwich accompanying the soup was decadent and luscious; macademia-crusted lamb was juicy and somehow coaxed extra flavour from the nuts; a couple of really fabulous sauces; the opening ahi sashimi plate was perfect and our second unexpectedly-fabulous onion experience of the week - see below). Wine choices were good to excellent, with an especially tasty champagne to begin; coffee rose above the ludicrously high standards of the islands. Just really good. The food quantity was fairly high by tasting menu standards, too; I'm a glutton but my wife was struggling at the end despite the lightness of the final spun-sugar and strawberry concoction. So thanks to all, and especially Bill Hunt, for the rec; we'd definitely return.

                                      Note that although I felt safe walking there, AW's is several blocks through poorly-lit streets from the Waikiki strip; we took a taxi back.

                                      Other chow-y bits from the trip: our first night we went to Tiki's at the Aston hotel, across the street from our Marriott room; didn't expect much but were *really* pleasantly surprised by the food, with the best poke of the trip and some marvellous onion accompanying that was neither strong nor bitter but instead sweet and flavourful, a perfect foil for the ahi. I need to find out more about Hawaiian onions, clearly. Otherwise on Oahu not great restaurant food: Duke's had world-class service but mediocre at best food (other than the unlimited very fresh pineapple!), and we had a *bad* and very, very expensive meal at Nobu [which is where the concierge sent us for the 'best sushi around' - I would strongly recommend avoiding Nobu, sadly. One dish - the soy-plum black cod - was indeed great and ethereal, but the rest was nothing special, the $12 tuna belly piece almost flavourless for example, and the service was *poor* with a definite feel of trying to rush us through. Many black marks and much sadness.

                                      One highlight was the HCC Farmers' market on Saturday morning. After walking up Diamond Head, this was an absolutely *wonderful* place to spend a few foodie hours, with ungodly perfect local fruit, ginger-mango spritzers, delicious curry, great coffee and chocolate, and so on. Don't miss it. Fruit in general was a revelatory highlight of the trip - I know, duh! - and a perfect papaya in particular from the market blew us away.

                                      We then moved to Hawai'i for a few days, but this was much more relaxation- and kid-focussed so no overly-fine dining. Failed to find anywhere at all around Volcano to eat! Our final two nights were at the Waikoloa Marriott, and their restaurant (Hawaii Calls) proved to be so good on the first night that we not only returned - rare for us! - on the second, but I ordered the same prime rib both nights. With a perfect pool/beachside location and absolutely perfect service again, including for our two boys, this place gets very high marks in general (although J's ahi sampler on the second night would have been much too spicy for me, and the desserts were nothing special; but as well as good entrees, their soups were good, decent house bread, good wine selection, very reasonable prices especially for the prix fixe).

                                      A few photos - only from my low-res phone, I forgot the camera! - from AW's are at http://picasaweb.google.com/ewanmcnay... . Thanks again for the help before we went.

                                      Alan Wong's Restaurant
                                      1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

                                      1. re: ewanm
                                        ewanm RE: ewanm Jul 21, 2010 07:57 AM

                                        I forgot to mention: Wailana coffee house in Waikiki, across from the Hilton. Went there for breakfast every day; it's out of the 50s, but good value, decent food, and really really good coffee and fresh pineapple juice. I was expecting good coffee in Hawaii, but when even the local diner is serving coffee that's better than any I can get back home... wow :).

                                        1. re: ewanm
                                          KaimukiMan RE: ewanm Jul 21, 2010 12:56 PM

                                          sad that you didn't find food in volcano. Kilauea Lodge, Thai Thai, and Kiawe Kitchen are all in volcano village, good food. Lava Rock Cafe and Lemon Grass are also in the area and pretty decent. The restaurant & snack shop in the park are pretty bad.

                                          thanks for a great review of your oahu experience.

                                          Thai Thai Restaurant
                                          19-4084 Volcano Rd, Volcano, HI 96785

                                          Kiawe Kitchen
                                          19-4005 Haunani Rd., Volcano, HI 96785

                                          Kilauea Lodge & Restaurant
                                          19-3948 Old Volcano Rd., Volcano, HI 96785

                                          Lemon Grass
                                          16-586 Old Volcano Rd, Keaau, HI 96749

                                          1. re: KaimukiMan
                                            ewanm RE: KaimukiMan Jul 26, 2010 05:59 PM

                                            Well, our fault rather than the venue: the only real mealstop we attempted was between leaving the park later than we had expected, and heading down to see lava; the two places we tried were both closed (it being only 5 p.m.). Limitations of children again, really: just the two of us, we'd have been happy to eat later, but 7- and 2-year old livers don't have that much glycogen, nor do they have our adipose reserves!

                                          2. re: ewanm
                                            Bill Hunt RE: ewanm Jul 22, 2010 08:09 PM

                                            I am glad that you enjoyed AW's. It has been our "go to" since Chef Wong opened, and we regret that we missed it on two trips in the past, but that was beyond our control.

                                            As for the walking, we've done that too, though the bridge is poorly lit and narrow. We normally will "cab-it," though we have an auto and pay for parking. We love our wine too much to risk, even a short drive. Same for Chef Mavro's, just a block away.

                                            Over the years, we too have received wonderful dialog with the chefs, and there always seem to be "morsels" that make their way to our plates, without asking. I cannot promise those, but they do seem to just appear. Same for some "special" wines, that are not on the list. I'd liken this to how "library wines" just show up at tasting rooms, when one asks questions, and shows a decided interest. Actually, I cannot recall any tasting room in Napa (often cited for being very commercial), that has accepted my AMEX card, regardless of what the signs say about charges. Chefs, and winemakers love to share their art, their craft and their love, with folk who care and appreciate their efforts.

                                            You have shared a new restaurant with me - Hawaii Calls. I have never dined there, nor even heard of it. Thanks for sharing. That is what CH is so very good at. Most of us Mainlanders can never know all the spots, and must rely on others, and on the locals for the great insights. It's the exact same for me with my beloved New Orleans. I try to stay current, but am only there maybe twice per year, and often only have a few free nights, as my wife's family still lives there, so we must spend a number of evenings with them, and do find ourselves going to family "favorites," at the expense of some new spots. Gotta' rely on the locals, as they are on the ground and can often hit spots that might well be off our radar screen.

                                            As it has now been 2 years, since we were on O`ahu, I feel very far behind the curve, and come here to learn from others.

                                            Thanks for taking the time to report. Please do a full review, when appropriate. As we just flew in from Blackberry Farm, just outside of Knoxville, TN, and were up at 2:00AM (their time) to fly back, I understand jet-lag all too well. Gonna' make major changes in our travel plans to Blackberry, as I am getting too old to pull "all-nighters."



                                            Chef Mavro restaurant
                                            1969 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                              ewanm RE: Bill Hunt Jul 26, 2010 06:03 PM

                                              Bill, it's the very least I can do after receiving such good help from you and others here. Glad to introduce you to Hawaii Calls; it's an odd mix really, with (as I noted) the entrees seeming to be much more attentively cooked than appetisers or desserts, but the setting is *so* good and the service *so* pleasant that it's hard to kvetch. [Not that the older couple seated next to us on the second night did not manage it; they had not been seated for more than 30 secs before one was muttering about slow service!] I came back down to the bar on the Saturday evening to listen to the live music, which was a solo guitarist/singer whose voice strongly resembled Leonard Cohen; he got far less attention than he deserved, so was glad to give him an audience. Turns out to be the owner of a local bar/grill (Anthony's) called Neil, from Wales; very pleasant chap.

                                              OK, detailed AW review still on deck.

                                              1. re: ewanm
                                                Bill Hunt RE: ewanm Jul 30, 2010 08:34 PM

                                                Will try to work them into the next O`ahu trip. Sounds like fun and good food.



                        2. v
                          valleygrrl RE: lestererik Aug 7, 2009 12:47 PM

                          So glad to see this thread- I'll be heading to Oahu soon for the first time in 20 years and was about to post a similar question (although I'm hoping to sample some of the more reasonably priced places). Any other thoughts on plate lunch places? I am dying for saimin! :) Mahalo!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: valleygrrl
                            haolebaby RE: valleygrrl Aug 8, 2009 07:09 PM

                            Only one thing to do, goto Kauai and eat at Hamura's. mmmm, saimin..

                          2. d
                            Daniel S RE: lestererik Nov 13, 2009 10:58 PM

                            I have to say that there are a lot of good responses. I think if money were no object, then my choices would be La Mer (great for a wonderful experience), Alan Wong's and Roy's Hawaii Kai. I think food overall would be Alan Wong's but you get a wonderful view of King Street so that's a low point. Roy's and La Mer give you a beach view (different beaches).

                            For less expensive but fun places with good food, I would suggest Side Street Inn (bar food, no ambience) but popular and good (pork chops and fried rice). Ryan's in Ward Centre (I like the casual atmosphere and decent food). Try to cajun chicken fettucine. Also, Uncle Bo's on Kapahulu Avenue has good appetizers, large portions, and a reasonable price.

                            for a little adventure for a price, you could try Sushi Sasabune. Depending on your taste and pocket, you might enjoy eating what the chef prepares. Many people might argue with me and though there are cheaper sushi restaurants, I had a great meal there. Perhaps cause I didn't pay, but the quality was great (though the price is hefty). Just food for thought.

                            There are many great places to eat depending on what kind of food you want. I hope you have a great time in Hawaii and happy eating.

                            Alan Wong's Restaurant
                            1857 S King St Fl 3, Honolulu, HI 96826

                            La Mer
                            2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                            Side Street Inn
                            1225 Hopaka St, Honolulu, HI

                            Sushi Sasabune
                            1419 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96814

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Daniel S
                              Bill Hunt RE: Daniel S Nov 14, 2009 06:56 PM

                              "Alan Wong's but you get a wonderful view of King Street so that's a low point."


                              Several have had similar comments on AW's King Street. To us, the food makes that view "come alive, like a sunset on San Souci Beach." Normally, we do the Chef's Counter Tasting, so our view is the kitchen, and worth every $, plus every other aspect.

                              Being a commercial photographer, visual are of great importance to me. Still, give me Chef Wong's food, plus the lovely service, and I'll cave for the culinary aspects everytime.

                              Though La Mer let us both down last trip, I still agree with you, and they will be in the list for next O`ahu trip. I hope that they can "step up to the plate," and "knock one out of the park." They have done so in the past, and I assume that they can do it again.

                              Do not know Sushi Sasbune, but the "best sushi on O`ahu" thread surfaces about every 4 mos. Sounds like a contender.

                              Now, I am not on a budget, so it is always all about the food. I do not grade based on the cost, only the satisfaction. I'll let others "do the math," and weigh the results. For us, it's only the food (with some ambience thrown in), and the wines. Serve these perfectly, and tickle my palate, and we are friends.



                              PS - mahalo for the Sushi rec.

                              La Mer
                              2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                Joebob RE: Bill Hunt Nov 15, 2009 11:01 AM

                                I agree with your AW advice. Also, La Mer let us down too. Re: Sasabune, we look for good value for the money, but when we put the first bites of sushi in our mouths, all thoughts of cost went out the window. Because you don't have to think about cost, it may turn out to be as good as AW IYO. The interior is simple but attractive. As others have warned, the chef is a dictator, so go omakazi. We ate lunch in a nearly empty room, but when a very attractive young woman came in alone, she was told that a large party would take all the tables soon and she was turned away!

                                1. re: Joebob
                                  Bill Hunt RE: Joebob Nov 15, 2009 07:07 PM

                                  Mahalo for the comments on Sasabune. Over the decades, we have not gotten great sushi on O`ahu, but also have to admit that we have not actively sought it out, so have probably missed the best spots.

                                  Why we go for sushi in SF, or LA, but not Hawai`i is a mystery to me, but it happens that way - duh!

                                  We need to designate a couple of days, just for sushi on the next trip.



                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                    KaimukiMan RE: Bill Hunt Nov 15, 2009 10:20 PM

                                    Indeed, sushi, sashimi (and poke) were common foods here long before most people on the mainland even really knew they existed. Sasabune and Mitches frequently get high marks here. Oddly enough Zippy's at Kahala also does a very credible job on sushi. yanagi sushi is a long time island favortie. i tend to avoid the conveyor belt sushi.... just dont know how long any particular dish has been there. Tokkuri-Tei is good, but its been a while since I was there. chiba ken on ena road in waikkiki is also quite good. Imana's in moiliili has a good reputation (near sasabune) but I haven't been there.

                                    Mitch's Fish Market
                                    524 Ohohia St, Honolulu, HI

                                    611 Kapahulu Ave Ste 102, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                    Sushi Sasabune
                                    1419 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96814

                                    1. re: KaimukiMan
                                      Joebob RE: KaimukiMan Nov 16, 2009 10:59 AM

                                      KMan is spot on as usual. And, if your raw-Hawaiian-fish avoidance has included poke, you have several fun days ahead. When you visit Poke Stop, have them cook up a fresh batch of eggplant fries to go with the fish.

                                      1. re: Joebob
                                        KaimukiMan RE: Joebob Nov 16, 2009 03:14 PM

                                        eggplant fries?? tell us more please. joebob you make me look like a neophyte foodie.

                                        1. re: KaimukiMan
                                          Joebob RE: KaimukiMan Nov 17, 2009 12:39 PM

                                          I would assume that all branches of Poke Stop have them, but we get them in Waipahu. Slivers of Japanese eggplant lightly breaded and deep fried. When freshly prepared, they are delish, and healthier than french fries. Not worth eating when cold though.

                                          1. re: Joebob
                                            MRMoggie RE: Joebob Nov 26, 2009 09:05 PM

                                            Finally made the schlep to Poke Stop in Waipahu and came away with fresh local hamachi sashimi better than I've ever had at a sushi bar. Few days later stopped at the one in Mililani and they pulled a whole fresh fish out of the cooler to slice hamachi for us. Their ahi is pristine, both poke' and sashimi, so we tend to go this route when we want raw fish, even if it lacks the variety of a good sushi bar. Besides the wine list better and it costs a lot less. Must admit we have not been to Mitch's. When I asked if the fish was fresh, didn't quite get stink eye in return but they said only the mussels tend to be frozen. Service is terrific, too. Next time we'll get some eggplant fries to eat on the way home.

                            2. f
                              foodkarma RE: lestererik Nov 29, 2009 12:52 PM

                              Just returned from a week on Honolulu and going through Hawaii withdrawal as I'm now back in snow and ice covered Canada and gained at least 3-5lbs from the trip. Thought I'd write up our food adventures here. There was a lot of food...


                              Alan Wong's on King street - I think most foodies would agree on AW on King Street. We weren't disappointed. Every dish was astounding! My boyfriend was pleasantly surprised. We decided to pass on the 5 course tasting menu as there were dishes on the menu we were intrigued by. We had the Chinatown Roastduck Nacho and Chili, Poki-Pines, Mini Loco Mocos to start. Every appetizer was great, the textures of the poki-pines... my boyfriend's fav was the duck nachos on the tapioca chips. My fav was the mini loco mocos - you can't go wrong with a mochi crust over unagi! My boyfriend had the surf and turf which was perfectly cooked both the beef and crab. The sauce over was decadent like lobster bisque. I had the ginger crusted onaga which was good, I found the ginger to be slightly overpowering but I was also still on the high from the mini loco mocos. We had to pass on dessert as we were meeting friends but met two fabulous ladies who sat next to us and we were all raving about the food. We will definitely go back to AW's. It really is one of those rare restaurants that deserves all the acclaim it gets.

                              Ono's Hawaiian Foods - We saw Ono's on Bourdain's show and wanted to try it out. The taxi driver we had on our first night was trying to discourage us as he said, "Ono's always have such loong line! Don't go there. They have long lines because their combo plates are so cheap." However the fact that it's busy and cheap made me want to visit it even more. Between four of us we had the combination plate which included: pork lau lau, kalua pig, poi, lomi salmon, rice, pipi kalau (dried spiced beef), and haupia (coconut dessert cubes), and we also ordered their beef curry, a side of spam, and grilled butterfish. All that food including two drinks only cost $39 before tips. It was so good we went back the next day and had their salt meat with watercress and poke. The poke was only mediocre to me and I think I prefer more tangy ceviche but the salt meat was the best dish on the menu. It practically melted in my mouth.

                              Leonards - I’d heard so much about Leonard’s malasadas. These portugese donuts come out hot when you order it. They don’t sit in the front. We got the custard filled ones - one vanilla and one chocolate. I’d thought I’d died and gone to heaven. This was also a needed repeat visit. I think I crave these the most and wished they shipped or we had amazing malasadas in Canada. They were only 70 cents for a sugar covered one and 90 cents if you ordered one with custard inside.

                              Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck - “There are lots of shrimp trucks but you have to go to Giovanni’s and get the garlic covered shrimp” I was told, so off we went in search of this truck... the shrimp scampi didn’t disappoint. I don’t typically eat rice because of the high carb content and I find since it’s flavourless I’d rather spend the calories on something else. However, I ate all my rice because it soaked up the garlic butter so well! My boyfriend ordered the lemon butter and we both agreed the garlic smothered scampi was superior. Even with much scrubbing with my toothbrush I still tasted the garlic until the next morning!

                              Puka Dog - this was also something we saw on Bourdain and thought, ‘pineapple relish on a hot dog?! We have to try it!” I’ll admit there we’d eaten so much throughout our trip I didn’t actually order a puka dog, instead my boyfriend ordered two on separate occasions and I stole a bite from each. The first one we got was a combination of hot sauce, pineapple relish, and sweet mustard - super yummy! The fruit was only a subtle sweet flavour and the bread was amazing. The relish and bread are all made by employees at Puka Dog at a separate factory. The employees spent a lot of time making sure the bread was toasted just right so it was crispy on the inside and so soft. The second Puka Dog we had was the mango relish with lilikoi sauce and hot sauce. It was also good but I found it sweeter than the pineapple and enjoyed the pineapple relish more for my taste. Still this was so good it was my boyfriend’s request as the last thing he ate in Honolulu.

                              Ramen Nakamura - there are many ramen places around Waikiki, after reading reviews and talking with some locals, we decided to go to Ramen Nakamura to have their oxtail ramen. The oxtail was tender and so yummy! The next night we’d wanted to try out another ramen place but ended up back at Nakamura just because we liked the oxtail so much. A friend of mine went back to this place 3 times for the cold ramen which we hadn’t tried. Going to try to replicate the oxtail ramen at home.

                              Bogart’s Cafe - this was an accidental visit. We’d seen these Acai bowls served everywhere for breakfast and after 5 days of eating greasy spam and egg type breakfasts we wanted something lighter. My boyfriend was told to go to the Health Bar just a bit further down from the Honolulu Zoo. we got there and saw that it was closed (Thanksgiving Day) however there was a huge crowd next door at Bogart’s Cafe so we decided to stop in anyway. This place had great coffee! It was exactly what I was missing during our trip (besides the occasional Starbucks). The smells inside the cafe were so savoury we both decided to pass on the acai bowls and get omelettes instead. I had the crab and avocado omelette and he had the apple smoke sausage omelette. both were gooey and exactly how we like our omelettes. Looking around I only wish I could have gone back to try the waffles (looked so sumptuous) and the breakfast bagel (which was voted favourite bagel in Honolulu).

                              Now for the disappointments, the last time I was in Honolulu was 3 years ago and I found there were lots of changes to either my taste of the quality of restaurants as places I used to enjoy were no longer satisfying. Also I found in the past 3 years, a few places we used to enjoy were now closed and hours were limited at some (due to the economy?). Here are the places that we probably wouldn’t go back to:

                              Duke’s - I remembered the breakfast buffet at Duke’s to be yummy and the view of the beach incomparable to any. This time going back, we missed the breakfast buffet but decided to stick around for the lunch buffet. It was alright for $12.95 however, the flavours were bland and nothing to write home about. The view was just as beautiful as before but there are other places with beautiful views that serve great food.

                              Cheeseburger in Paradise - I remember loving this place and going back 3-4 times over the years, this time I found it overpriced and not unique. I ordered the Kobe burger with mushrooms, guac, and bacon which was $15 with no sides included. I can justify that it’s Kobe beef, however my boyfriend had the bacon and cheeseburger with no sides and it was about $11 for just the burger. When we received the burgers, we both decided Inn and Out was better, even Fatburger was better. The bill came and for 2 burgers, a basket fries, and 1 coke, 1 mai tai we paid $50! Not a place we would go back to.

                              Waiola Shaved Ice - We were told Waiola was the best shaved ice in the city. I was dreaming about the asian style shaved ice covered with 3 types of beans, corn kernels, 2 types of grass jellies, coconut jelly, and condensed milk. We were disappointed when we got to Waiola and found it was mainly the artificial rainbow coloured syrups poured over shaved ice and the only options we had to add on were azuki beans, mochi balls, and condensed milk. Maybe our expectations were too high, but we were disappointed.

                              A few other places that peaked our curiosity:

                              We tried to go to Side Street Inn but it was closed by the time we got there (midnight on Sat night), we were pretty surprised because we thought it was open late night and our taxi driver even thought it was open late night. We’ll try this out on the next visit.

                              An employee at a retail store we visited, told us about Sushi Sasabune mentioned here. He said it was the best sushi in town and the best way to eat this was to let the “sushi nazi” have control over what you ate (Omakase). He also mentioned that the exec chef, is dubbed the sushi nazi because he is critical of the people who are on their cell phones and will provide lesser service to those who don’t seem to be enjoying his food. After this conversation, we started to hear about Sasabune everywhere we went. Another must try for the next trip.

                              We tried to visit Rainbow Drive In and noticed it was closed, all three times we drove by. There were construction men on the roof and milling around the place. We’re not sure if that means Rainbow Drive-In is under renovations or if it’s no longer in existence.

                              All in all it was a great foodie trip. Sorry for the long post.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: foodkarma
                                Quince RE: foodkarma Nov 29, 2009 05:42 PM

                                Ice Garden in Aiea has the asian style shave ice you were thinking of. Most shave ice will be of the colored syrup variety, but some places make their own syrups and are careful to use finely shaved ice, with delicious results seldom found outside of Hawaii.

                                1. re: foodkarma
                                  KaimukiMan RE: foodkarma Nov 29, 2009 07:16 PM

                                  Great report. Rainbow drive in was closed Thanksgiving week for a major "clean-up" and minor repairs. Side Street Inn serves till just about midnight... very late for Honolulu, they are also closed mid-afternoon. Agree 100% that cheeseburger in paradise is awful, but then I always thought it was. The only hamburger I ever saw my then 12yo housemate's son ever turn his nose up at. Waiola is definitely "local" style shave ice, not asian style. The syrups at rainbow are made in house, and yeah...they are artificially colored, but not flavored. The texture of the ice is what you didn't pick up on. Glad you enjoyed your trip.

                                  1. re: KaimukiMan
                                    foodkarma RE: KaimukiMan Nov 29, 2009 07:51 PM

                                    Good to know about Side Street Inn and Rainbow Drive-In, we're trying to go back to Honolulu last year and will definitely put it on the list along with Sasabune, 3660 and Roy's. We also missed Gyu Kaku on this trip.

                                    Thanks for the information about Waiola, I can see how it would be a popular choice amongst locals, it was just too sweet for us - my boyfriend is diabetic too so we couldn't have eaten too much of it.

                                    Counting down til I'm back in beautiful Oahu.

                                2. s
                                  Scott O RE: lestererik Dec 27, 2009 12:03 AM

                                  I know the trip is over, but for anyone else seeing this thread I have to give a plug to Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin. Real-deal tonkatsu that is a revelation.

                                  Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin
                                  255 Beach Walk Spc 1, Honolulu, HI 96815

                                  1. KaimukiMan RE: lestererik Dec 27, 2009 12:43 PM

                                    would be great to hear from the OP how he enjoyed his trip and where he ate.... or did i somehow miss that post?

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